Videos highlight the need for teacher wellness

By: Gerry Rucchin
August 6, 2019

Healthy teachers mean healthy students.

Psychology professor Susan Rodger from the Faculty of Education has joined forces with EdCan Network to promote teacher wellness in the nation’s classrooms.

The ‘Well at Work’ initiative is a series of videos, fact sheets and podcasts that will bring teachers evidence-based research and best practices about wellness while informing the public about the health challenges teachers face.

Teachers will see their concerns and experiences reflected in the videos, said Rodger. She added they will also tackle myths the public has towards teachers, such as teachers having it easy because they have short work days and the summers off.

The videos and other resources will also challenge the system and encourage education administrators to emphasize teacher wellness.

“It’s not about doing more pilot projects and gathering the same evidence over again,” said Rodger. “It’s recognizing the importance of actually doing something with all of the work that’s being done right now.”

Rodger said teacher stress leads to absenteeism from work. It also leads to presenteeism, which means teachers are at work but they aren’t doing a good job because of their stress level. Consequently, teacher wellness is more that helping teachers cope with job stress – it also helps students.

“We’re seeing more research about the connection between student unwellness and teacher unwellness,” said Rodger. “Students are more stressed out when their teachers are more stressed out.”

Rodger said when you take a closer look, organizational stress is a leading cause of teacher unwellness. In fact, teachers’ lack of independence – they’re told what to teach and how to teach – affects their emotions because they often have to do things they don’t agree with.

Rodger stressed teacher wellness has to become a priority for the school system. Right now, teachers aren’t being given support to work on their mental health and wellness. Instead, they’re in front of their classroom. Rodger said that has to change. Health promoting organizations prioritize people, and part of the work day and work culture has to be dedicated to teachers, their experiences and their wellness.

“We know a vast majority of teachers are doing volunteer work either at their school or within the community. The vast majority have to take care of families,” said Rodger. “If you’re workplace isn’t valuing your wellness, there’s a limit on how much better you can actually be.”

The McConnell Foundation provided project funding and the videos will be launched in the fall.